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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — With hundreds of thousands of pets each year taking to the sky with their owners, one of the nation’s biggest airlines is joining other carriers and changing its rules.

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Starting in March, Delta will no longer allow larger pets to be checked onto their owner’s flights. This means they’ll be handled as freight instead.

For Peter Harrold and his wife Jan, Shanti is part of the family, which means when they fly – their adorable golden doodle does, too.

But Shanti’s too big for the cabin so she has to be checked.

“It is not the easiest thing. It takes a long time. There’s lots of paperwork,” said Harrold.

As part of the policy change, pets will have to arrive at the airport three hours before a flight, be dropped off and picked up at the airline’s cargo facility – which may be in a different location than passenger check in, and the pooch could fly on a separate flight-that may arrive at a different time.

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Delta’s change follows United Airlines which also transports larger dogs as cargo.

Sue Kazlaw-Nelson runs the airline’s PetSafe program.

“We really have a better equipped facility at cargo,” said Kazlaw-Nelson. “And we can properly keep the animals in a safe environment and have professional staff that can look after them when they have a connection or layover rather than just leaving them out on the tarmac where the bags are.”

Southwest Airlines and JetBlue won’t let you check a pet.  American Airlines still does, but only on certain types of aircraft and not when it’s too hot or too cold.

Service animals of all sizes are allowed into the cabin, a system travel experts believe will be taken advantage of as airlines make it harder to check pets.

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Delta said the change to its policy will ensure a high-quality, consistent service for pets when their owners choose to ship them with delta cargo.